The rise of Internet of Bins

Last week I participated in a workshop, organised by D-Waste, about the Internet of Bins. The workshop was about a LIFE project named EWAS. The project aims to foster innovation in the area of public and private interest of waste management by demonstrating the potential of new information technologies (combining software platforms with ultrasound sensors) to optimise the current EU waste management collection methodologies and to establish a way forward for the standard adoption of a more sustainable model.

Up to now, almost 600 sensors are already in place in Seville, Spain and Chania, Greece. During the workshop the first results from the two cities were presented. In brief, the results are summarised like this.

With the use of the ultrasound sensors, provided by Wellness Telecom, we have a very good idea of the level of waste in each and waste bin, in the form of a continuous graph, as shown below.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 08.55.36

So, combining this type of data with the location of each bin, it has been possible to re-arrange collection routing in two different ways:

  • In central and touristic interest areas, collection is re-arranged based on the level of waste in each bin, in order to avoid overloaded bins and their aesthetic impact. In this case collection  patterns are becoming really on-demand.
  • In rural and remote areas, collection is re-arranged in order to collect only relatively full bins. This results in much less routes for remote areas, and finally in substantial savings in fuel and human resources.

For an idea of the savings, in Seville, the savings are between 37-48% on an annual basis!

I think it must be clear that we enter in a new era, where waste bins, sooner or later, in most parts of the world, will be continuously connected, transferring whatever data is required to a server and allowing us to develop new business models for waste and recyclables collection. Using the right sensors, which will gradually become cheaper and more energy autonomous, we can have a pretty good idea of several parameters like the level of the waste in the bin, the moisture, the temperature etc.

With proper algorithms we could even predict not only when the bin will be full but also when it will start to smell! Of course, with proper algorithms too we can continuously optimise a flexible on-demand collection program ensuring that each vehicle collects 100% of each capacity in the most efficient way. Finally, we can also use the location data of each bin to inform citizens in each and every neighbourhood about the level of waste in their bins and ask them to act accordingly, through relevant mobile apps!

I do believe that the future of waste and recyclables collection will be Hybrid. The Internet of Bins opens new possibilities for interconnecting bins, vehicles, people and sophisticated algorithms in order to provide customised and optimised collection services with minimum cost. Add to this the evolution of driverless collection vehicles and you can imagine the future with a very good approach. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already reshaping the waste industry

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